© 2020 WFIT
Public Radio for the Space Coast
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Democrats Question Whether Postmaster General's Hiring Skirted Background Checks

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, left, visits Capitol Hill earlier this month. DeJoy is set to testify before Senate and House panels in the coming days over his controversial plans to cut costs at the U.S. Postal Service. Many Democrats fear these changes could slow the delivery of mail ballots this fall.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, left, visits Capitol Hill earlier this month. DeJoy is set to testify before Senate and House panels in the coming days over his controversial plans to cut costs at the U.S. Postal Service. Many Democrats fear these changes could slow the delivery of mail ballots this fall.

A pair of House Democrats are raising questions about whether a member of the U.S. Postal Service board of governors skirted typical practices to influence the hiring of Louis DeJoy as postmaster general.

Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., and Katie Porter, D-Calif., sent a letter to USPS board member John Barger raising questions about his role in recommending DeJoy for the position, according to a copy of the letter obtained by NPR. The letter cites reports that DeJoy was not included in a pool of candidates cultivated and vetted by an outside hiring firm contracted to fill the job.

"According to individuals familiar with the process, Mr. Louis DeJoy was never recommended by this firm but was rather introduced by you to the selection committee," the letter reads. "It would have been irregular for a member of the USPS Board of Governors, such as yourself, to recommend Mr. DeJoy without the consultation, research, or support of the contracted hiring firm Russell Reynolds Associates."

The letter comes amid controversy over steps DeJoy has taken to alter Postal Service processing, staffing and facilities. Those changes have slowed mail delivery and caused concerns about the agency's ability to process a surge in mail-in-ballots ahead of the November election.

In comments last week, President Trump seemed to tie USPS funding to his hope of hampering mail-in voting expansions nationwide, increasing concerns that DeJoy's changes to the Postal Service may be politically motivated.

Earlier this week, amid bipartisan criticism and a series of lawsuits, DeJoy announced he would halt some of his cost-cutting efforts, although it's not clear whether he would restore service to previous levels.

DeJoy is set to testify Friday before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs and Monday before the House Oversight Committee.

Democrats have questioned DeJoy's qualifications for the job and accused the postmaster general of intentionally delaying mail to disenfranchise voters. DeJoy was a major donor and fundraiser for Trump and the Republican National Committee. DeJoy's wife, Aldona Wos, has been nominated to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Canada.

"The appointment of Mr. Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General was highly irregular and we are concerned that his candidacy may have been influenced by political motivations," Krishnamoorthi said in a statement. "We need to get to the bottom of why Mr. DeJoy was considered, given that he apparently was not one of the candidates recommended by the firm contracted to make such recommendations, and did not undergo a background check."

Porter said, "It's clear that Louis DeJoy isn't qualified to be the Postmaster General. He's one of the few in history, if not the only in history, who didn't come up through the Postal Service. So I want to know why he was chosen for this role, and if this was a political decision, rather than a policy one."

In the letter sent Thursday, Krishnamoorthi and Porter ask Barger to explain whether he recommended DeJoy without the research conducted on other candidates for the job. They also ask Barger if he discussed DeJoy with any Republican Party officials.

Trump appointed Barger to the USPS board of governors in 2019. He is the managing director of NorthernCross Partners, a Los Angeles-based private investment firm, and a frequent donor to Republican candidates.

Barger did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Democrats began raising questions after multiple individuals shared concerns that the outside firm, Russell Reynolds Associates, and its background process were circumvented for DeJoy, according to a Democratic aide. The agency was hired to find candidates and vet their backgrounds, including any potential conflicts of interest.

The letter goes on say that David Williams, a former USPS inspector general and USPS board member, told Democratic staff that he expressed concerns about DeJoy during the interview process and requested a background investigation. Williams resigned from the board on April 30, less than a week before DeJoy's appointment.

Williams told committee staff that he cited the background check conflict as part of his decision to leave.

"I had expressed concerns after each of the interviews with Mr. Louis DeJoy," Williams said. "I urged that a background investigation be conducted. And when I resigned, I cited it as one of my reasons for submitting my resignation to Chairman Robert Duncan."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.